OCEAN CITY — Continuing a trend that began when the Delmarva Irish-American Club’s annual St. Patrick’s Parade and Festival was cancelled last March near the outset of COVID-19 locally, the club this week announced the 2021 event will not be held this spring.
Last year’s cancelation was one of the first major special events to fall because of COVID-19. Two days later, Gov. Larry Hogan issued strict emergency orders, including a stay-at-home directive, closing schools, restaurants and bars and most businesses.
In the interim, most of the special events in the resort were postponed, cancelled or modified greatly as the pandemic wore on. Now, nearly 11 months later, the club announced this week the 2021 St. Patrick’s Parade and Festival has been cancelled, providing a bookend of sorts to the coronavirus at least locally. Mayor Rick Meehan, who serves as president of the DIAC, said this week the hope is the cancellation of the St. Patrick’s Parade and Festival in March is the last major event to fall by the wayside because of the pandemic.
“This was the first event in 2020 that was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the DIAC, along with the town of Ocean City, is hopeful that this will be the last event to be cancelled,” he said.
The annual event has been a tradition in Ocean City for decades. It typically marks the return of spring and another summer season as thousands cram into Ocean City for the actual parade and all the celebrations that accompany it. St. Patrick’s Parade Co-Chair Buck Mann said this week despite a drop in some of COVID’s key metrics, at least locally, and the roll-out of the vaccine, albeit somewhat strained and challenging, the timing was not right to host a major event that typically draws thousands.
“Many of our participants, including our own Stephen Decatur High School marching band, would be unable to participate, and the club believes that we must first put the health, safety and welfare of our community first,” he said.
While the annual event provides a significant boost to local businesses climbing out of the challenging winter months, the St. Patrick’s Parade and Festival is a major fundraiser for the DIAC and the community. The DIAC is a non-profit organization with over 350 members, most of whom volunteer to help pull of the event and other charity endeavors throughout the year.
All proceeds from the parade and festival are donated to local charities. The club has given more than $500,000 in scholarships to local high school graduates, sponsored a room and the Macky and Pam Stansell House of Coastal Hospice, purchased uniforms and sponsored trips for Decatur’s bands, donated $10,000 to Worcester County schools to support technology for students, supported youth recreation programs at Northside Park and contributed to countless other local charities. For the last six years, The Dispatch newspaper has published a program guide for the event with all proceeds distributed back to the club for community scholarships.
“Our members take great pride in being able to support and give back to our community,” said Mann. “Of course, we could not do all of this without the support of the town of Ocean City and the local businesses that have supported our parade for more than 40 years.”
While the 2021 St. Patrick’s Parade and Festival has been shelved, the DIAC promised to bring the event back in 2022 bigger and better than ever.
“We see visitors from all over the mid-Atlantic region, all in their green, to watch the parade,” said Mann. “It has truly become a family event, and for many of these visitors, it has become a family tradition. We will begin immediately to plan for the 2022 parade and promise to return with the largest parade in the history of the event, so hold the date of March 12, 2022.”